Old Spring

Present day Amherst is located within what was once the Western Reserve in the Northwest Territory. This land belonged to the Connecticut Land Company who surveyed the land between 1796 and 1806 and divided Amherst, which was five square miles, into 100 lots. The first known permanent settler who purchased the land from the Connecticut Land Company in 1811 was Jacob Shupe. Shupe settled in northern Amherst on Beaver Creek. Using the area's sandstone and the creek's waters, he developed the first saw mill, grist mill, and whiskey distillery in the area. Many other early settlers to Amherst were veterans of the War of 1812 who had been given tracts of land by Congress for their military service. Each family settled on or near Beaver Creek and used its waters to develop their farms. Josiah Harris of Massachusetts arrived in 1818 and purchased the land where the Old Spring stands today. At the time, the area of Amherst was known as "The Corners," as the five main streets converged near the spring on Beaver Creek.

As the village grew in population through the mid-nineteenth century the spring became the center of economic activity. By the early 1900s the water was pumped into storage tanks, and later the spring was used by a brewery. In 1914, a free running pipe was installed for easier access to the drinking water from the spring.

By the 1930s both local and federal money helped restore the spring. In 1930, August Nabakowski, a local roofer whose business was located across the street from the spring, built an archway at the entrance to the spring with recycled materials, including broken tiles, pebbles, sandstone and cement. In 1936, workers from the New Deal's Work's Progress Administration (WPA) built stone tables and a fireplace at the site, and reinforced a guard wall in the area between the Old Spring and Beaver Creek.

Since the rejuvenation of the public space in the 1930s, families have often picnicked or simply spent time down the small steep hill behind Town Hall to enjoy the scenery, the sound of rushing water or a fresh drink. Although most houses had indoor plumbing, some families who lived on the outskirts of town could not drink their running water and still had to rely on the Old Spring for drinking water. By the 1960s the water from the Old Spring was deemed unfit for human consumption because of the high level of bacteria. Some Amherst residents blamed people who put chemicals on their lawns, which became a popular practice in the 1950s. A sign today still warns visitors to the spring not to drink the water.

Images

Audio

Getting Water From Old Spring
Norman Miller, a life long Amherst resident, remembers his family retrieving water from the Old Spring in the 1950s and 1960s.
View File Record

Map